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VMPhil7,841 posts since 31 Mar 2005
Granada North West Today
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This is a post I have been working on for a while. It's a longish read so look away now if you don't like in-depth analysis of branding. But since you're on this forum, you probably do.

Twenty years ago today, the BBC unveiled a brand new corporate identity designed by Lambie-Nairn. It involved a complete rebranding of all the BBC's services and their own corporate logo. After many years of the familiar slanted, italicised BBC blocks, this design was ditched for a stark new look using the Gill Sans typeface, that looked more modern, worked better at smaller sizes and integrated easier with other BBC brand logos.

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• Above: BBC television channel logos and snippets of their respective channel branding, first seen between 1997 and 1999.

This corporate unification followed through to on screen presentation as well - each channel followed the same template for the placement of logos, menu text, trails, slides and so on. It even extended to the BBC and Flextech joint venture of cable/satellite channels, UKTV.

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• Above: Screenshots taken from The TV Room, showing how the menu and trail design was shared between the BBC channels and the UKTV channels

The original concept behind the rebranding was that too much of the personality of each brand was being squeezed into hundreds of completely different logos.

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• Above: Animated GIF of compilation of the ‘zillions of BBC logos’ taken from a video presentation by Martin Lambie-Nairn. Note how many of them are local radio stations - I talk about this more later on in this post.

Initially, when comparing the previous logos to the new ones on their own, the new approach can look sterile and devoid of, well, personality:

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• Above: BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 5 Live logos, pre-1997 and post-1997 compared side by side, with the post-1997 logos displayed plain on their own as in the original corporate identity guidelines.

This is because instead of all of the personality being poured into the logo itself, additional graphical elements were used to give each service its own style (this can also be seen in the television logos graphic earlier in this post):

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• Above: Same as previous graphic but now with (recreated) backgrounds taken from graphics that were used in places like on TV slides and in the Radio Times. (Stacked versions with the frequency underneath were also allowed and shown in the guidelines and would probably look better here, but the ‘original artwork’ was chosen to show the intended official design).

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• Above: Further real examples of how these patterns were used for TV slides. Note how the frequency doesn’t appear on Radio 2’s slide, something that the guidelines stated must appear at all times. The Radio 5 Live example uses the stacked version that was allowed in the guidelines.

Although the logos by themselves may have looked boring at the time, nowadays, many modern brand identities do not make the logo the be-all and end-all. For example, Comedy Central's logo by itself is rather plain, especially compared to the wacky tower logo they used for many years beforehand. However, the brand personality is instead represented by surrounding elements of presentation.

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• Above: 2011 Comedy Central logo.

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• Above: 2011 Comedy Central presentation that launched with the then-new logo.

I've posted on this forum before about how I admire the 1997 corporate identity. It was a bold decision to break away from the BBC's past and create a logo that has proved timeless - thanks to the choice of Gill Sans which in itself is timeless. The pre-1997 logos look immediately dated to the time in which they were created, but the 1997 logos still look contemporary, though I doubt such a ruthless implementation of the 'BBC Anything' idea of the BBC logo followed by the name set in Gill Sans would happen now. However I think overall the redesign stands the test of time.

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• Above: The 'BBC Anything' system is still around if you look… at least for now.

One area in which I think the rebrand had the most impact was BBC Local Radio. If you look at the animated GIF earlier in this post, you can see that each station had its own individual logo that tried to represent the area it was serving. These cumbersome designs were dropped in the rebrand, of course, but interestingly ever since then BBC Local Radio has continued to use a unified brand that all of its stations utilise.

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• Above: The current unified BBC Local Radio brand identity.

Nowadays you'd be forgiven for thinking the great logo clear out of '97 was a figment of Martin Lambie-Nairn's imagination. While fellow broadcasters like ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky continue to have a mostly unified look across their services, if admittedly not as rigid as BBC '97, the BBC has gone back to the method of most of its brands having their own unique logo.

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• Above: A slightly out of date but nevertheless indicative collection of modern day BBC brand logos, originally put together by mdtauk.

Now twenty years on, this year marks the beginning of another shift in the BBC's corporate identity with the gradual replacement of Gill Sans with the BBC's new typeface, BBC Reith (apart from in the main BBC blocks logo). So far only BBC Sport have deployed the new typeface across its branding, so how the rest of the BBC's services will implement it remains to be seen, but I don't think anyone would deny that another, well-designed unified look to the BBC's branding would be welcomed - if not as drastic as the 1997 rebrand in its corporate unity.

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• Above: BBC Reith - the future?

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I'm curious. What was your reaction to the rebrand in 1997, and did your opinion change over time or do you still feel the same way? Could a rebrand of its size ever work again nowadays? And do you think the BBC should have another complete revamp, even if it doesn't have to be as drastic or bold as 1997 was?
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all new Phil2,337 posts since 12 Feb 2005
Granada North West Today
Great summary.

I’ve never really been a BBC kind of person, and aspects of the 1997 branding did leave me a little cold. Things like trailer endboards, next slides etc were all a little dull-looking.

That said, the level of coordination and consistency at the time was brilliant. Many elements of the presentation were great (and I maybe didn’t realise at the time) - it was a world away from the dated look they moved away from. Looking back at videos of BBC1 continuity for example, it feels like there is a lot more confidence and the channel looks and feels more important than it does now. Same for things like News 24.

The BBC really does suffer now from a lack of confidence and dynamism in its presentation, and I think a complete overhaul along the lines of what happened in 1997 is the only way they can tackle this. The near constant tinkering since then has really weakened the brand and created this disjointed look they now have. It needs one person to oversee this and reintroduce some strict guidelines. Too many people have been allowed to steer identities away from the core brand.

Consistent trailer endboards and ECPs would be a quick and relatively easy fix in the meantime - even just tweaking the one from BBC One for other channels.
I love lamp
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VMPhil7,841 posts since 31 Mar 2005
Granada North West Today
Something that I failed to mention but was reminded of in the other thread is how much I liked the CBBC One, CBBC Two and so on branding. It's such a simple idea but really clever to be able to integrate the CBBC brand with the name of the channel it was on. I know some people also thought these idents were boring but I really liked them, especially the first two shown below (lava lamp and the spiral).

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CBBC One/Two/Prime idents from TV Ark, CBBC Choice ident from here
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Brekkie27,646 posts since 4 Jan 2003
HTV Wales Wales Today
I think it's pretty clear the BBC needs a full branding overhaul now - the block logo could and should probably remain but everything else is pretty much an absolute mess one way or the other and these gradual changes or rollouts just aren't helping the situation as by the time they roll something out something else has changed and we're back at square one.
Shouldn't that have been posted in the "John Logie Baird has Invented Television" thread?
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tomo359870 posts since 18 Oct 2009
Border (England)
Great detailed post, loved reading it all.
I do like consistency in branding, but I do think the original 1997 look could look a little bland at times.

I understand the channels each had their own branding elements, but when you just look at the logos they were very boring, especially the CBBC logo.

It has shown how you can do consistent branding whilst keeping a unique look and feel to each channel and service.
I think this is what BBC now needs, if only they could afford it.
Keep the BBC blocks as they still look great, but create new logos that each have a slightly unique look and feel whilst still all fitting together.
Right now it's all such a mess with some channels and services having the new style square logos like CBBC, some using the rectangle logos such as BBC News and Two, and some using just text like BBC One.
It also doesn't help that the branding for the channels is poor, I think we're all pretty unanimous in hating Oneness, and as nice as the old BBC Two ident were, they don't look right now, and BBC Four's seem to have been on air forever now.

Surely a fairly basic but nice rebrand could be done by BBC's in house creative team to save money, simple new ident, end boards and channel pres for all on air channels. I don't even think radio would need much doing to it, neither does local news really as it's the tv channels that are letting the BBC brand down right now.
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JAS842,964 posts since 26 Aug 2010
Yorkshire Look North (E.Yorks & Lincs)
Yeah, BBC One's current look is unpopular, uses the previous package's logo, and is apparently a stopgap. BBC Two is using 25 year old idents, BBC Four's have been running for over a decade. All three need an update.

For Radio and News, just swap the Gill Sans and Helvetica for Reith, job done. Same for CBBC, which I think uses Arial?
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RDJ2,064 posts since 25 Oct 2003
Central (South) Midlands Today
The corporate logo has now been in use for 20 years.

That matches the longevity of the rounded BBC logo which was used for 20 years before it was scrapped completely at the 1991 corporate rebrand in favour of the 1988 coloured slanted logo.

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The current logo is quite timeless and I can't see it being changed any time soon. But with the introduction of the Reith typeface, could its days be numbered? Or could it last for its 25th anniversary or even 30th?
Central News South
January 9th 1989 - December 3rd 2006
DE88149 posts since 8 Jan 2017
The rounded BBC logo which was used for 20 years before it was scrapped completely at the 1991 corporate rebrand in favour of the 1988 coloured slanted logo.

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Playdays was still using this logo in 1992.

And check *this* out...

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I prefer the second Grange Hill theme tune to "Chicken Man". Does that make me weird?
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Justin310 posts since 9 Oct 2014
BBC World
The corporate logo has now been in use for 20 years.

That matches the longevity of the rounded BBC logo which was used for 20 years before it was scrapped completely at the 1991 corporate rebrand in favour of the 1988 coloured slanted logo.

The current logo is quite timeless and I can't see it being changed any time soon. But with the introduction of the Reith typeface, could its days be numbered? Or could it last for its 25th anniversary or even 30th?


Several revisions throughout those twenty years.
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It's also worth noting that the BBC logo wasn't seen to the level that it's seen today. Apart from the first launch ident, BBC2 never featured it in any of their idents or promotions until the 1991 refresh. Likewise on BBC1 albeit to a slightly lesser degree. The current logo is a lot more globally recognizable and iconic.

I'm sure they could change the font without many people noticing but I doubt they'll ever get the justification for the immense costs of replacing the signage, stationary, etc.
New Zealand isn't that far away!
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MrDexB121 posts since 21 Jul 2014
Granada North West Today
[quote="JAS84" pid="1081645"]
The rounded BBC logo which was used for 20 years before it was scrapped completely at the 1991 corporate rebrand in favour of the 1988 coloured slanted logo.

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Playdays was still using this logo in 1992.

And check *this* out...

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That's a 1995 copyright date! I bet it stayed that way until the show's end two years later.[ /quote]

Nope! They just kept messing about the credits and the logos. That 1995 copyright slide seems to have a older member of crew taking care of it, not keeping to guidelines.
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